Poetry Blog by John E Marks

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Lorca’s blood wedding bleeding 
Into lemon-tree-soil
Reminds me of nothing more than the toil, toil, toil
Of life in Al-Andalus.
Priests chanting their rosary
Like it was El Maleh Rachamim
Or the Mourner’s Kaddish (which it probably was, if the priest
Was a Jewish Converso, who changed his religion
To save his life or, maybe, the life of his children). The Moriscos (ex-Muslim Moors), as us...

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Life is but a dream...

She still walks beside me
Tall, stooped, a quintessentially English presence.
 I listen again to how those flat Fenland vowels 
Swirled into melodies melded with the staccato RP of Cambridge.
We knew so many minor key explorations of sadness; 
Pulling at the scabs of loneliness and regret.
Yet you beget songs made plangent
By the melancholic timbre of your voice.
Your abiding mood was irre...

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Antonio Salieri, a man of less than monkish virtue, and of very little talent,

Falsely promised the deliverance of Jerusalem from infidel rule,

This was a lie. All his music was packed full of lies and thefts.

At the age of 35 Amadeus Mozart fell ill. Mozart was prodigious producing:

Opera buffa such as Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte

Opera seria such as Idomeneo and Die Zauber...

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The marvellous Lidos of London 

Nowhere better to live that summer

So many bodies lifted into the sense

Of immortality, of continuance, except

My black gay friend who nearly

Ended it all in a council house. I turned

Off the gas and he managed to last

Long enough to play drums at Wembley

Stadium on a certain day. We once

Drove up to Harrow-on-the-hill

He felt ill when ...

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Marilyn Monroe reading Ulysses

Treading through the dark Sargosso sea
A freezing mist in the air, a winter sway,
Celtic, crossed and re-crossed, we're on our way.
A watery Calvary stares into our blemished air
And you cannot, ever, ever, be there.
Today we dead coagulate - we are not where you think we are - 
We thicken into consciousness.  Our dying words still taken at the fall
Rampant, they are on our cracked lips, no...

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"Think you're escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home. History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” James Joyce, Ulysses



All that we expected


Marriages crumble

Families disperse

All epics and rhapsodies


The hour of our birth

The hour of our death.

Icicles, stalagmites and stala...

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Wish you were here

The glass bead game had its part to play,

On that formless holiday,

And chemotherapy and surgery,

And a walk across a Lancaster field one day

When I was young and broken.


A skylark rose so fast I froze 

looking! looking! on my toes

catch the song flying away.


A stuttering of a past

that does not last 

within a rhyming chiming mind

O! that charming man, I ...

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Such eloquent Graffiti

It was an ordinary, wet north Manchester night

Of solid rain, unremittingly wet and cold.

When, suddenly, all the rivers, in all the world, stopped flowing

And all the summer colours leached away and never returned

And the wind it got so cold and stings like hell

And then the sky descends into the air.....

And you're not there.


The blackness is deep, deep and remains...

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Sons and brothers.

."Remembering death, I know the life of the world as it is now is not living, it is a bad process of dying. And what we must live for is a new world of life. It doesn't matter when we die, so long as we live fulfilling the deepest desire that is in us. And a life which is a denial of the deepest desire is much worse than any death, it is a sheer lie." DH LAWRENCE


I have drunk a lot of whis...

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Ripple in still water


All that is, is not,

Numbed into meaning:


Occasional flowers,

In a city without sleep, 

They die in the sky

Whilst counting sheep.

Moon people kiss,

Not like normal  people do, 

I dreamt a dream with a broken heart

And the dream is of you.

St Stephen with a rose

In and out of the garden he goes

Country garden in the ...

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A charmed death

I do not drink,

But I am living under this mountain

That might crush the life out of me

Any time, any day,

So, I drink anyway.

Too much grandiosity

Dims the soul

Makes us old.

I hear the wise ones pleading, pleading when on fire,

So much screaming, as the flames they get higher:

Hebane, belladonna, mandrake, datura

All of these, like mescaline, can see right throug...

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i.m. Pte Jack Prince

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As the wind blows ever faster,

And the temperature drops,

– I am recalled

To my dialogue with the dead.

My grandfather, Jack, had his

Last pint of bitter in this pub

I am sitting in before

Embarking for France in 1914,

And his first one back in November 1918.

2020 Jack - alive in my heart - always loved, never seen -

Not a line of his writing have I, not a wisp of his...

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Early Spring in England

On this beautiful spring day in February

With delphinium-blue skies and cheeky

Crocuses splashing purple and dazzling

Daffs nodding in agreement, on this mild Aprilesque

Zephyr of a breeze. Then folk do long to go on pilgrimage,

My pilgrimages are to interior parts

Where I  seek relics of a past that cannot last

I imagine that if a poet, who I have in mind,

Were given one m...

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Desires, memories, fears, so many tears,

I only know that here is the murmur of the waves,

And the spindly branches tremble on the trees

The morning light is thin, flimsy,

The vagaries of auguries are spread out

Like a blanket over the antique branches

Of oak trees and the birds sing

to the rising in the East, of the sun, which is magical;

This is a birth day, a death day, ...

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Being here

Some muttered words on a windy night

Make me listen closely to her heart-beat.

Words can decline into cant – quick, flippant, arrogant

Listen! to the Gregorian chants of the monks:  singing across the centuries.

In silence, I admire the stonemason’s art, their way of seeing things,

Frozen in time, giving form to a vision of God-knows-what,

A palimpsest of languages: Latin, Norman...

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Daily life

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I  struggle every day to remain well,

It's an obstacle course, of sorts,

Yesterday, I was ko'd, knocked out,

But before the count of 10 I was 

Up again, fighting to recover my balance, my poise.

On my toes

I rose to the challenge.

Today,  I Am fasting, the best detox I know,

Hoping I will recover, in time 

To watch a film, have a meal,

Get up from my bed. Be well.


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outfoxing the furies

Fluid the medium by which we desire,

Heavy the limits from which we aspire

To lift ourselves free on the wings of a dove

To practise perfection by drinking his blood.

The illusion of earth is splintering fast

We grab at the air, as we fall at the last:

Witchery, Witan, Wicca and Wizard

Pursuing the furies is why we are feared.

Opening spaces and stretching out time

In a ...

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from swerve of shaw to blend of bray

On March 15th 20118, I was two days away from the delirium of sepsis and I wrote this.


“In the name of Annah the Allmaziful, the Everliving, the Bringer of Plurabilities, haloed be her eve, her singtime sung, her rill be run, unhemmed as it is uneven!”
― James Joyce, Finnegans Wake

catching my death

is an English melody

travelling from heat to freezing cold

culture, religion, ...

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Lovers' parting

You are my moment, and my dream,

Great is my say in the passing of your day

The  rules of aesthetics do not apply

You are only a beauty because you pout and lie

How secret you are; and true

As you crave me to be.

Stay unreachable, far away because

The dream of happiness is more than happiness.

Be garrulous, free with words and with youth;

Let your hair and your ec...

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The rags of time

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The guttering rain of home 

Stains the memory

Longer than churches

Can stand.

Is it duty to devotion

Or devotion to duty that keeps

Me standing in this field of ripe poppies?

At a loss. I don't know

How can we translate this chaos

Into words?

The grammar of suffering

Is indecipherable.

Lost in translation

Faith no longer floods my mind

My mind reminds me


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A love supreme

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Oh Lord, my God,  I fell asleep,

No longer in a state of grace,

No longer a beautiful woman, 

No longer a poet, beloved by the Emperor,

I am a harlot, like Mary Magdalene,
A sister of the Christ - dazzled by the myrrh,
By an acre of sorcery,

Destroyed by a terrible moon
By the time of the month; by everything being too late, or too soon.

By the phases of the moon.
Give me you...

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Written near water

“Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again."

- Poem XL
― A.E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad


Ordinary life creates

Empty spaces

Inside of me

Composed of God-knows-what:


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On 21st December, 1873, Horace Moule was staying with his brother, Charles Moule. When he heard a strange noise in an adjoining room, Charles discovered that Horace had slashed his windpipe with a razor. He was covered in blood but conscious and was able to utter his last words "Easy to die. Love to my mother."

Written two days before sepsis

The sting of the wind
On this cold spring day

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Digital love: Digital grief

If I send you an emoji

Will you know exactly

How I feel?

Will you  truly know

That love is real?

Or, if I send you

A coffin-shaped nail

Will you wail and gnash

Your teeth?

Will you experience

A kind of grief?

Or, truly, truly,

Will you not

Give a flying toss?

Loss, in all its peculiar manifestations,

Unites people of all races, classes and denominations...

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Ecrasez l’infâme

The Scientific Enlightenment came at no small cost

Christianity took a thousand years to subdue

Now Islam is in the west, as fundamentalism is born anew

Imprisonment, blasphemy, books burnt, inquisition, internment, death.

Yet, the Secular-Spiritual-Sceptical-Scientific spirit survives

A new constant vigilance is the price we pay

As unreformed superstition seeks to re-establish a...

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The rhythm of a dream


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash


The multi-verse within:

I stumble into my usual discontent

A bout of sleep –

A fragment of the fourth dimension,

Trapped within

An echo of a dream –

Thin, thin

Time, like the river Lethe,

Washes over me

Left I am here, bereft,

To float upon this river of unmindfulness

Towards the golden dome

Which glows with ...

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When my eyes are full of tears

And I cannot cry.

When I think I've conquered my fears

But I can only sigh.

When I rise to the occasion,

And hold myself together,

In rain or shine or stormy weather,

And my heart beats fast,

And faster still,

As if I'm running up the steepest-steepest hill.

Then the memories tumble out,

And stop me dead,

And I cry, at last,


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Sylvia's Father says

O! daughter dear, on this mid-western afternoon,

When I can see all the way to Sacremento, I cry

For you,  Ariel-blue, in all your golden-girlhood

Too lovely for a life of pettiness and sin were you

You caught a boat to England, never returned.

My heart burns for an extraordinary Jew like you,

Beautifully clever Ariel-blue. And, maybe I didn’t talk

To you like I yearned and wa...

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A raggedy thin cotton dress
Torn. On the little girl playing
On this freezing December day.
Was she torn from her mama or given away
She's left by her friends
And deserted by her dad
And neglected by those who pretend to care.
Little Ellie is sad and hungry
The priest says ‘she’s going-on bad’.
Her school calls the doctor,
And the doctor calls the nurse,
Torn this and that way,
She’s j...

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Irish Times

Walking over O’Connell bridge in central Dublin

On this freezing morning. Body hunched, coat pulled

Tight. Hearing the cries of seagulls, or is it the hawkers

In Henry Street? Over in Blackrock, Éamon de Valera,

Has begun to die. The sky is heavy with snow

As in Joyce’s The Dead. I walk to Bewleys

In Grafton Street, dispense with my fluttering

Of snow as I take off my overcoat...

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Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night

And all her forgotten beauty

People pass out of sight

On this August midnight

When the serpent and the saviour sit


Somewhere in old-England.


No truths are hidden from our lady moon

No disguising her faint silvery tune.

Such wide-open rosy faces, face the blackest of skies,

Gnarled hands shade their frightened eyes,

No, no,...

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Now only the scrag-end of human remains

Whenever I see a death date,

Say 1989, I think in 1986 s/he had three years

Left to live

Except in this case, he was born and died, in 1985.

His blue-blue eyes

Are with me alway.

As night follows day.

He made me  think of the Aztecs

Silky, gossamer, filmy, wind-borne, seeds floating by

High, high, so very, very high, in  the And...

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An august poem

The best of the British fell in the Boer War,

World Wars ! and 2,

On the Somme, Passchendaele, Verdun.

Galipolli, Malaya, Aden, North Africa, Normandy.

Gene-pool fucked from then on. 

Our luckier cousins had long ago set off across the broad Atlantic

Convicts moved straight on to the antipodes,

To the Swan River of Western Australia

Convict scum of the East End born to live...

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Place of Recovery

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This the place of recovery
This is where she began
Amharic text reminds us,
As we live beneath the sun,
She was a warrior,
An Amazon on the run.

Who, when sky was black as gold,
Was dragged across the sunless sea
By men without a soul:
Her stories and narrations,
Her lives as yet untold.

From slave ships and from factories
Amidst the stinking heat
We hear the triump of wizened men...

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At home, my daughter said:

 Good luck daddy!

I had a long journey ahead

Let me eat, before I drink,

They are building the cave.

In case of Arab raiders.

Oh! Distance, distance.


My nephew is the remover of bottles

A drunkard yes, but a useful idiot.


Constantinople is a remote power

But powerful, the Ottomans

Rule by terror

Let me go with it, before it's...

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A mighty working

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She's the shadow of a shadow,

She's the smile upon a face,

She's tantalising, like music,

Released from time and space.


Her image is a mirror,

Of glance and glimpse and gleam

On St Agnes Eve pursuing

The remnants of a dream.


We track her down the by-ways

Of yearning and despair

But at the sound of foot-fall

She'll vanish in thin air.


But in the wa...

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Photo by José Marques on Unsplash

The tone of the big bell settles in the dust
of this small market town in county meath
and on the stained glass window still
i see the sun-marked resonance of bell;
circles of uninscribed sound
through all the cerebral centuries
chimes and chants for christ the king
chimes of crucifix, pyx and plate
these bells have blessed the insouci...

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‘Read poetry,’ he wrote: ‘poetry makes men better.’ How often, in my later life, I realized the truth of this remark of his! Read poetry: it makes men better.”
― Peter Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist 


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com



We own nothing

We are merely stewards 

Passing on, occasionally adding to,

But I don’t think mother Earth

Would think much o...

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stormy weather

there's only so much reading you can do

so much listening to storms rumble in

from far horizons

we think this earth is solid under us

but talk to a Seismologist

then you'll quake

we carry this dream of solidity

with us always: in hospital, at the grave-side

everywhere our dream allows us to live

hoping, just hoping

that we're travelling towards

the harbour

and n...

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Buddhas of Bamiyan, Resurrected as Holograms

When life seems so easy

And soft summer zephyrs blow

Keep an eye upon the future:

Ice, rain and snow.


There’s danger:

From within:

Illness, pride and sin

And from without:

Envy, greed, the horned snout.


The Buddhas of Bamiyan

Hewn directly from sandstone cliffs

Were destroyed by the Taliban

After nearly 2000 years.


What an irony

For the clos...

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Crushing colours a palette on a cross

Flipping textures into the tones of the bones,

Tom-All-Alone’s home in the West End of London;

 A sudden perspective on slums,  

A rule of thumb, conditioned by time.

Point of view will not do it for you. 

Sweeping the litter far away, that awful day

Circumstances conspire to a bitter end

A swirl of thumb or a brush with a stroke 


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